NOT OURS TO JUDGE
by Fr Leo J. Trese
“Two women were chatting as they stood in line at the checkout counter. ‘The thing I can’t stand about Grace,’ one woman said, ‘is the way she’s always ctiticising other people, always seeing their faults.’ The lady made the remark with a perfectly straight face. She was quite oblivious to the fact that she herself was doing what she pretended to abhor.
THE LORD’S TREATMENT OF THE WOMAN CAUGHT IN THE ACT OF ADULTERY
One of the most touching incidents in our Lord’s life surely was His treatment of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Frightened and shamed, she was dragged before Jesus by the Scribes and Pharisees as He sat teaching in the Temple courtyard. The woman’s accusers posed what they thought was an inescapable dilemma to Jesus: should the woman be stoned to death as the Law of Moses prescribed?
If Jesus said, ‘No, let her go,’ He would convict Himself of contempt for the Law, held sacred by the Jews. If He said, ‘Yes, stone her,’ His reputation of compassion for sinners would be destroyed. ‘What dost thou say?’ the Pharisees urged.
CASTING THE FIRST STONE
Seeming to ignore their question, Jesus leaned over and wrote in the dust with His finger. What He wrote has remained a secret for twenty centuries. Were His markings an aimless tracing, or did He begin to spell out the sins of the men who stood before Him? In any event, as He continued to write He directed the accusers, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.’
One by one they slunk away until the pitiable woman stood alone before Jesus. Only then did He look up with merciful eyes to say, ‘Go thy way, and from now on sin no more.’
Christ’s admonition, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone,’ should be graven deeply in the heart of each of us. A saint will weep for sinners and pray for sinners, but it takes someone much less than a saint to condemn a sinner.
Almost always it will be a selfish spouse who accuses his or her partner of selfishness. It will be a self-seeker who censures a fellow employee for toadying to the boss. There will be a basic streak of covetousness in the person who imputes dishonesty to another. It will be a fundamentally proud or ambitious person who points to pride or ambition in his neighbour.
FACING OUR HIDDEN WEAKNESSES SQUARELY
Psychologists have a name for this habit of fault-finding or of criticising others. They call it ‘projection’. It is a defence mechanism by which we try to still our uneasiness concerning our own unacknowledged and perhaps unrecognised weaknesses. Subconsciously we try to get rid of our unworthy feelings and desires by projecting them onto someone else. For example, the self-righteous woman who shows most scorn for a prostitute or an unwed mother, is trying desperately to keep the lid on her own suppressed sexual urges.
Projection is a very unhealthy form of personality adjustment. It would be much more salutary to drag our hidden weaknesses out into the daylight and to face them squarely.
We ARE human. We possess all the defects to which fallen human nature is subject. There is no sin in the book of which we are not essentially capable. If we have not erred grievously, it is no great credit to ourselves. It is God’s grace which has won our victories for us, plus perhaps the good fortune of a truly Christian upbringing and a protected environment – which themselves ate gifts of God.
LIVING A CHRISTLIKE LIFE
This matter of forbearance toward others, of patience with their mistakes and compassion for their sins, is enormously important for the living of a Christlike life. In fact, there IS no genuine Christian life without it.
Probably few of us ever will become totally perfect in our effort to leave all judgment to God. There will be moments of resentment or of pique when we forget our resolve. However, such moments will be few if, as accusatory words rise to our lips, we summon up the vision of Jesus writing in the sand and hear the challenge of His invitation, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone.'”